January 29, 2019
Daytona holds something new every time
I have now covered the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona four consecutive years and each has provided something different or an interesting twist on an old story. The place drips with history and race drama.
The first year (2016) was the excitement of seeing an actual race at the track followed the next year (2017) when my brother Bill had to push me all around the track in a wheelchair because of my back injury from falling off my shed roof.
That was the year when Ricky Taylor in the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi, moved the Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi number 5 driven by Filipe Albuquerque out-of-the-way and into the lead with six minutes left in the race. Taylor went on to win the race by .671 seconds over the charging #5 race car.
The 2018 edition featured the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi revenging their loss in 2017 by racing to victory setting a new record which had stood for 36 years driving 2,876 miles and 808 laps The Chip Ganassi Ford GT team finished one-two giving Chip his 200th race victory. Note that the #54 LMP2 CORE Autosports team owned by Jon Bennett finished third on the same lap as the winner.
I will remember this year’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona for the cold temperatures and strong winds on Saturday followed by the rain and cold Sunday. At times the rain fell at 1 -1 1/2 inches per hour. It was also the year I developed a story featuring the #54 CORE Autosports team with its Maine connection.
“Big Daddy” Don Garlits; more in a future episode…
In addition to covering the race, my photographer/helper/brother and I spent serious time with one of the legends of drag racing, “Big Daddy” Don Garlits at his museum in Ocala, Florida. That visit will have an episode of its own since we have over two hours of personal interview time and photos to share as well as some information “Big Daddy” has not shared with others in all of his interviews (well that is what he said)
Rolex race highlights in photos
“I think it was an interesting race with the conditions changing, very tough, but I think, like everyone else says, everyone did their job,” said Jordan Taylor, who scored his 21st career victory. “All four drivers led in their own right and drove to the lead, different parts of the race, and it was all about survival.”
“You saw a lot of guys taking a lot of risk early in the race, but we waited with the game plan of running our own race and not getting caught up in anyone else’s battles. I think it was the right game plan. We stayed out of trouble, no car damage, no one went off the track. That’s the way you win these 24 hour races, and we kind of came into the grid thinking almost every single car can win the race, and you see guys making little mistakes here and there, and this team has now done six out of seven years finishing on the podium without issues. I think it’s a huge testament to Wayne Taylor Racing.”
“I’m very, very proud of the job that we achieved today, but it was not a one day job, it was a one month job,” F1 driver Fernando Alonso said. “For me, in December we started preparing for the race and receiving all the documents, how the Cadillac works and how Wayne Taylor Racing works, some procedures that maybe are different compared with other teams.”
“We tried to have a quick integration, Kamui (Kobayashi) and myself, trying to learn as much as we could from the team in the Roar Before the 24 test days and then, on the race itself, it was very, very difficult. Conditions were changing all the time.”
John Doonan, Director Mazda Motorsports stated, “While it is disappointing that we didn’t see the checkered flag, our Mazda Team Joest crew and drivers can leave with their heads held high that they had put together an effort that ran at the front and was a contender for the victory at Daytona.”
“Our Mazda employees, partners, owners and fans deserve to enjoy success, and our approach was to race from the front and push ourselves and the competition as hard as we could. We’ll learn everything we can, put a plan into place to address the issues we had here and go for it again at Sebring. Racers are optimistic, and we are already looking ahead to Sebring to show what we can do.”
“It’s a very tough result”, said Tristan Nunez co-driver of the #77 which lasted only 220 laps and placed 46 of 47 entries, “because we had a winning car – both Mazda RT24-Ps could have been a factor at the end of the race. Our car led from the start, and the guys gave us great pit stops and a car that could run at the front. It worked really well throughout the stint and I was really excited to get back in for my next stints. We’re so close to getting that first win, and even though we’re disappointed I can’t wait for Sebring.”
“I think it’s amazing how far we’ve come in roughly two months”, remarked Jon Bennett. “My hat’s off to the whole CORE team for all their hard work. Not just hard work, but smart and effective work to get us competitive in such a short time frame.”
“We had a small sensor problem mid-race and I think that was all that separated us from being at the front in the end. Fourth is a great accomplishment for our first race with the Nissan and I want to thank my teammates and everyone on the crew for doing such a great job.”
“I’m here to race and compete, but at some point you have to be practical. I’m afraid if we’d gone much farther someone would have been hurt and that’s not what we’re here to do. I’m happy we’re all going home safe, we’re all in one piece, we’ll regroup, add from our experience here and be super competitive at Sebring.”
Driver Loic Duval added, “We all come here to win and to get the watch, so for sure there is some frustration, but in the end, if you look back at the details, in the dry we had very good pace and in normal wet conditions we were pretty good, but when there was a lot of rain we were not able to keep up with the Cadillacs. Even if we didn’t have the mechanical problem we had, I think P4 would have been the best we could do.”
“The race was very difficult.” chimed in driver Romain Dumas. “Everything went according to plan and as we got close to the middle of the race, we were running in the top three. Unfortunately, when I was driving, we had a gearbox sensor issue. It wasn’t possible to up shift without using the clutch, so without this I lost a lot of time. We repaired it but lost some laps.
“This is a great result for us,” Colin Braun driver of the #54 for the full season. “We got the car less than two months ago. I’m really proud of these guys to come out in our first race and be on the backfoot a little bit and show that we’re still contenders. It was a good testament to what we can look forward to the rest of the year.”
“I have to say that Jon did an amazing job all through the race. After his first stint in the race I think he only lost 20 seconds to the leader, so I’m glad he’s comfortable and having fun in the car. It makes me pumped for the rest of the year.”
Let’s go racing,
Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)